I love spaghetti squash. Its available year around and it’s a yummy vegetable. I prefer to cook it in the microwave. It is infinitely faster, and the strands stay a nice even colour, with no browned bits. They are low in calories and just as the name says it, they can substitute spaghetti or mixed in with a small amount of pasta, they give the pasta experience, but with far less calories. They are best when crunchy; if too soft they become mushy. After you bake a few you learn to estimate the time just from the size. They can take anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes to cook. Large ones are harder to cut in half and of course can take up to 8 minutes in the microwave.
To avoid the perils of chopping them in half, some people poke them all over with a sharp knife [which I think is perilous enough] and then bake them or microwave them whole. This takes longer to cook, and you need to watch not to get burned when removing the pulp and the seeds. My biggest complaint of course is that the whole squash will collapse and there is a greater chance of overcooking.
• Cut the squash open with a sharp chef’s knife lengthwise; not across.
• Remove the seeds and the pulp with a spoon.
• Microwave each half for 4 to 8 minutes.
• Let it rest in the microwave for 5 minutes before serving.
• Or bake at 375 F rind side up for 30 to 40 minutes.
• Just before serving separate the strands by running a fork through lengthwise.
• Sprinkle with salt, dot with butter and top with freshly chopped herbs.
There are all types of stir frying methods, some are tastier than others. But if you are like me, and find soggy vegetables a turn off and live with someone who likes his vegetables TENDER what you need to do is avoid adding liquids to the pan. Seasoning is easily achieved with vegetables and herbs to suit anyone’s palate. How? Lightly sauté the vegetables in a little olive oil and tenderize them with residual heat from the pan. It’s so easy and simple. You can add meat or cooked pasta or both or add chopped nuts. It is that simple and delicious. What you need is a non stick skillet, olive oil, a variety of [fresh!] vegetables and salt. Everything else is optional.
1/2 cup cooked pasta [optional]
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh garlic cloves
tiny piece of fresh ginger
1 large carrot
2 stalks of celery
1/4 yellow bell pepper
• If using, pre-cook the pasta, rinse, drain and set aside.
• Wash the vegetables you will be using.
• Place them on the counter, but don’t peel or chop just yet.
• Heat up a non-stick fry pan on medium heat.
• Meanwhile slice the onion.
• Add the olive oil and the sliced onions to the skillet.
• Sprinkle with salt to taste.
• While the onions sauté, slice the garlic and chop the ginger.
• Give the onions a stir and add the garlic and the ginger.
• Next peel the carrot and slice it diagonally.
• Add the carrots to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Slice the cauliflower and add to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Chop and slice the broccoli and add to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Slice the celery and add to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Chop the yellow bell segment and add to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Immediately add the cooked pasta and the choice of herbs to the skillet. Give it a stir.
• Place a well fitting lid over the skillet and turn off the heat.
• Let the stir fry rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile do not lift the lid.
• After 20 minutes adjust the salt give the vegetables a final stir and serve it immediately. Serves 2-4
Simone, our son in law first served this delicious soup to us and then gave us [via his parents] a nice butternut squash. We both enjoyed the soup so I made it the other day from the ingredients Simone listed for me and with the help of my cookbooks I came up with this recipe. This is a fusion recipe from several sources, although fairly close in taste to what Simone originally served to us. Creamy and velvety and requires no thickening agent. In fact if reheated, it needs thinning with broth or water. The cinnamon stick is an essential component and I found a sprinkling of sugar mellows the flavours. This isn’t a sweet soup though so don’t add too much sugar. Just sprinkle a little between your fingers into the pot. After pureeing I put the soup through a fine sieve. I didn't want any chunky thing floating in it. I didn't add the ground pepper along with the salt. Pepper should always be sprinkled on at the table. First of all, not everyone cares for ground pepper and secondly the pepper looses some of its oomph when cooked with the food.
Roasted Winter Squash:
2 cups raw winter squash (butternut, hubbard, acorn)
salt to taste
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced carrot
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups low sodium chicken broth [homemade is best]
1 roasted winter squash
salt and to taste
little sprinkling of sugar
1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
white ground pepper [optional]
To make roasted winter squash:
• Heat the oven to 375 F.
• Wash an quarter the squash.
• Scoop out the seeds.
• Place in a baking pan and roast in the preheated oven until medium brown on the top.
• Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
To make the soup:
• Puree the roasted winter squash in a food processor.
• Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot.
• Add the onion, celery, carrot and cinnamon stick and sauté for 10 minutes or until soft but not brown.
• Stir in reserved and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
• Discard the cinnamon stick.
• Add the broth and bring to a simmer.
• Slow simmer for 5 minutes.
• Puree the soup using an immersion blender.
• Or let the soup cool down and puree in a blender until smooth.
• Next place a large fine sieve over the pot and force the pureed soup through the sieve. • Return the pot to the stove and reheat the soup gently.
• Add the milk or the half-and-half.
• Adjust the salt.
• Serve the soup with some sour cream and white ground pepper on the side.
With a minimum of flavouring, roasted almonds provide a great snack on the road. Pass the doughnuts and discreetly bring out a tiny container of roasted almonds when you stop at Starbucks or at Tim Hortons. I am not exactly sure how many calories these are; I would estimate 15 roasted almonds cannot be more than a hundred calories. If you want to loose weight eat every four hours. You mustn’t get hungry or the body will shut down and conserve every blessed thing you put into it. And keep drinking water. Carry the water and make sure if you have to buy a bottle it contains no sodium!
2 cups [250g] whole raw almonds
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
light sprinkling of salt
• Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil.
• Spread the almonds in a single layer in the pan and place in a cold oven.
• Bake at 350F for 12 minutes.
• Turn off the oven.
• In a medium sized bowl combine the honey, water and olive oil.
• Take the almonds out of the oven and pour into the bowl.
• Stir to coat the almonds.
• Pour the whole thing back into the foil lined baking pan and return pan to the still warm oven.
• Let the almonds dry in the oven. Do not turn on the heat.
• After an hour remove pan from the oven and let the almonds cool down.
• Store the glazed almonds in air-tight metal cookie box.• Always keep a small container of roasted almonds in your purse.
I made an Uncle Bubba* Pound Cake exorcising a bad memory. Who ever heard of good hospital food? Well maybe my hubby, he never wanted me to bring in food for him after he started chowing down following his hernia operation. Even worse, when Olivia was born he ate up all of Leilah’s hospital meals[!!!] – I swear he went up to the hospital to eat. Meanwhile I kept running home and cooking and taking edible food to the hospital for our daughter.
I was displeased with hospital food right from the beginning – as a kid every hospital stay made me sicker. That’s because I refused to eat. But wait… there was that pound cake at the Péterfy Sándor Utcai Kórház. All right, I was warned to eat the soup first, but I gagged on it so I started on the cake instead. Then Nurse Ratched comes over and pours the soup over my cake! All these years I never made a pound cake… whoever said there was no food therapy?
*Uncle Bubba is Paula Dean’s brother.
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour [must be all purpose]
1 cup milk
2 tsp lemon extract
• Note: Do not accidentally grab “self-rising” flour out of your cabinet. Only use “all purpose” flour.
• Preheat the oven to 325F.
• Fully line a 10-inch tube pan with parchment paper.
• Spray the center tube with cooking spray.
• In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
• Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
• Add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.
• Stir in the lemon extract.
• Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
• Place in oven and bake at 325F for 1 hour.
• Increase the temperature to 350F and bake for 30 minutes more.
• Do not open the oven door while baking.
• After 30 minutes, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to see if it comes out clean. If it doesn’t, continue baking at 350F until the toothpick comes out clean.
• Place the cake on a wire rack to cool down completely.
• Run a blunt knife around the middle and gently remove cake.
• To serve, cut a slice and sprinkle it with icing sugar.
• Nice with sliced strawberries or drizzled with strawberry coulis.
Adapted from Beatrice Ojakanga’s “Petite Sweets”, these individual sized desserts really do give the New York Cheesecake experience, except they are much, much fewer in calories. I used 3 small [2 oz] and 3 large [4 oz] ramekins. The small ramekins produced a satisfactory amount for a single serving and the large ones, I found, were a little too large for a single serving. This dessert is easy to make and the cranberry sauce is just the right amount to serve on top of eight 2 oz servings.
187.5 g [12 oz] light cream cheese -->; this amounts to 3/4 of a 250g block of cream cheese, at room temperature [room temp is important!]
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 pinch of finely grated orange grind
• Preheat the oven to 250F.
• Have available eight small [2 oz] ramekins.
• Adjust oven rack to center position.
• In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed beat the room temperature cream cheese for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
• Add the ricotta and mix until blended.
• Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition until completely incorporated.
• Add the vanilla, sugar, and whipping cream and mix until combines.
• Divide the batter among the ramekins.
• Place the ramekins in a large, rimmed baking dish and place on the oven rack.
• Pour enough hot water into the pan around the ramekins to reach about halfway up the sides.
• Bake for 45 minutes, until set.
• Meanwhile make the cranberry sauce.
• Place the cranberries, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
• The skins of the cranberries should all burst within a minute.
• Remove from the heat, set aside to cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled through.
• After 45 minutes in the oven the top should not have changed color at all.
• Remove the ramekins from the oven and from the water bath.
• Set aside to cool slightly, then refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled through.
• Spoon the chilled cranberry sauce over the chilled custards and serve.
• Yields eight 2oz servings
This is a lovely almond flavoured drink with a slightly bitter taste. Recipe is by Margaret Garfield from “Garfield’s Party Time Favorites”. Amaretto extract and smoothy crystals can be purchased at any wine supply store.
2 Tbsp Amaretto extract
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 tsp smoothy crystals
• Combine extract, sugar and crystals in blender.
• Add the vodka to the 32 oz or 1 L mark [4 cups] on blender.
• Blend at low speed until sugar and crystals are dissolved.
• Improves with age.
The Easter Monday Story:
Liquoring the Easter Monday sprinkling-visitors was probably the only time I saw an array of liqueurs while growing up. My parents didn’t drink; they neither had the time nor the inclination. So before Easter the annual 2 litres of barack pálinka that my other grandma cooked up for us was turned into a variety of liqueurs, using chocolate, coffee, walnut and orange essences. I snuck a few swigs from it when nobody was looking and my two absolute favourites were the coffee and the walnut flavoured liqueurs. My husband cooks up the stuff now, but he uses vodka for the base. Darn it all, for my old age I developed an alcohol allergy. I am not exactly sure what kind of booze I am not allergic to, but the prospect of going into an anaphylactic shock stops me from experimenting. However, I am happy to say I can liberally cook and bake with booze and I love the flavour booze gives to my cooking.
Speaking of Easter Monday sprinkling… I was aghast to learn that the old barbaric custom of men dumping bucketfuls of cold water on young women on Easter Monday is making a comeback in rural and not so rural Hungary; perhaps it never left from some parts. The idea is that girls must be dunked, sprinkled or they will wilt. So on Easter Monday Hungarian women and girls wait for the men and boys with decorated eggs, baking, and liqueur and sometimes with money gifts in exchange for the dunking service.
Growing up in the busiest section of Budapest, [hetedik kerület] I was never subjected to these humiliations. I don’t think that was because city girls were held in higher esteem, it’s just that apartment dwelling is not conducive for throwing buckets of water around. So I grew up with getting sprinkled with cheap cologne instead. Now that was plenty humiliating for me so I cannot wrap my head around the idea why would a 21st century young woman allow men to soak her with ice cold water on a chilly spring day in the name of tradition! This custom is nothing more then the re-enactment of a fertility rite, but in the past couple of years the Hungarian propaganda machine has morphed it into a religious custom; something to do with baptism and the resurrection of Jesus. When all else fails give some outrageous pagan custom a Christian purpose, involve the nationalistic pride and all of a sudden what once was passé becomes a sacred duty to uphold. I am truly amazed at the gullibility of people. Mark my word, the cheap cologne in the not too distant future will be replaced with holy water.
I cannot tell you how I hated Easter Mondays. I resented the imposition of the neighbor boys coming to sprinkle my hair for money and sometimes taking a swig of liqueur when I was fully aware of the fact that the same guys would never acknowledge me if they passed me on the street. By the end of the day I had a headache from the mixture of cheap colognes and when I no longer could stand it, we stopped answering the door, cutting off all stragglers, who would be drunk by then anyway and we washed the junk out of my long red hair. When I turned twelve I got a haircut and hooked up with an older cousin and her friend and started the tradition of spending Easter Mondays walking the belváros [downtown] and sunning on the steps by the river. Now these… were fun times. As for the rest, the Hungarikum can have it all.
I will never forget my first Easter Monday in Canada and the realization that no sprinkler will call. I felt a sense of loss for a brief moment and then we bundled up our brand new baby daughter and the three of us went for a walk.
- It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. This is to my old on-line friends and visitors: policing the comment section for spam and answering questions has become a chore. Good wishes to you all, happy cooking and keep on feeding your people with good food.
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